Asthma Drug Shows Potential to Reduce Liver Fibrosis

Cromolyn sodium associated with reduced liver fibrosis.

Anti-inflammatory cromolyn sodium is commonly used to prevent allergies and asthma, but recent findings have uncovered a new potential use for the drug.

Research published in the scientific journal Hepatology unearthed key findings that suggest anti-inflammatory cromolyn sodium could be linked to reduced liver fibrosis. Researchers at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, in conjunction with the Central Texas Veteran’s Health Care System and Texas A&M Health Science Center, spearheaded the study.

The study found that cromolyn sodium successfully blocked series of cells that are known to trigger liver fibrosis (scarring), which in turn can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Researchers evaluated mast cells, which infiltrate and multiply after liver injury and release histamine, causing liver fibrosis. By using a model that mimics human primary sclerosing cholangitis (PCS), researchers discovered that the drug successfully blocked the histamine that causes fibrosis.

PCS is a chronic disease that damages bile ducts and causes serious liver damage, resulting from short-term damage, such as an injury, or long-term damage, such as alcohol abuse. As a result, the liver scars and swells; over time, the disease can lead to liver failure, infections, or tumors. There is no effective treatment for PCS, and patients must often resort to liver transplants.

“We have been examining mast cells for a number of years in my lab, and found that they become more prominent and active during the disease, so the overall goal of my research is to find drugs to target mast cells and render them inactive,” said Heather L. Bradley-Francis, PhD, researcher at the Digestive Disease Research Center at Baylor Scott & White Health, in press release.

Although the results prove to be promising, more research needs to be done to support the study’s initial findings and determine whether patients can be given the cromolyn sodium drug in the future to prevent fibrosis in hope of reducing the need for liver transplants.

“If you base it off these studies, the possibility of reducing or preventing fibrosis in patients could be very high,” Dr. Francis added. “We need to perform additional experiments to ensure that we are giving a dose that would be tolerable to humans.”

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